SWASC Mails Petition with 700 Signatures, Cover Letter and Addendum to Chair of the Board of Directors, National Commission on Correctional Health Care on February 19, 2019
We have not yet had a reply. It would be good for NASW social workers to contact their NASW Board representatives to let them know what SWASC has done and to comment that Melvin Wilson, NASW’s Manager of Social Justice and Human Rights represents NASW on NCCHC’s Board of Directors. They could ask if he has taken a position or informed the NASW Board. Likewise, for psychologists etc.
- For a copy of the Petition to NCCHC, click on: www.socialworkersasc.org
- Cover Letter – below:
Thomas J. Fagan, PhD, CCHP-MH, Chair
Board of Directors, National Commission on Correctional Health Care
W. Diversey Pkwy.
Chicago, IL 60614
Dear Dr. Fagan:
Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement (SWASC) launched a petition campaign and we now submit to you 650 signatures of Helping and Health professionals from all over the country. We call upon the governing bodies of our professions to assume institutional responsibility for replacing solitary confinement with humane alternatives. This will contribute to fulfilling the NCCHC mission to “improve the quality of health care in jails, prisons, and juvenile confinement facilities” and help to enforce the codes of ethics of its Board representatives.
We look forward to your response, in hopes that you will incorporate the Physician’s for Human Rights recommendation to develop and strengthen institutions to address the problem of dual loyalty at a systemic level, which is critical to promoting high standards of professional practice among health professionals. In addition, we request that you protect patients’ human rights and advance the nationwide effort to abolish solitary confinement through the voices of NCCHC’s health professional associations, individually and collectively. We have included an addendum to this petition for further consideration.
Moya Atkinson, co-founder & co-convener
Sandra Bernabei, LCSW Co-convener
Mary E. Buser, LCSW & author: Lockdown on Rikers
- Addendum to the petition
We note NCCHC’s Position Statement on Solitary Confinement, and its 17 guidelines, all directed at correctional health staff. We also note that in its position statement on Correctional Health Professionals’ Response to Inmate Abuse, Correctional Health Professionals’ Response to Inmate Abuse, NCCHC declares:
- Correctional health professionals’ duty is to the clinical care, physical safety, and psychological wellness of their patients.
- Correctional health professionals should not condone or participate in cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.
However, there is an important oversight: NCCHC omitted any reference to the Physicians for Human Rights’ report on Dual Loyalty and Human Rights in Health Professional Practice, especially its list of “Institutional Mechanisms” for health professional associations. These are essential to resolving the dual loyalty dilemma of individual health professionals.
According to PHR’s Report, Chapter V:
“Developing and strengthening institutions to address the problem of dual loyalty at a systemic level is critical to promoting high standards of professional practice among health professionals and protecting patients’ human rights… In many cases of dual loyalty conflicts, particularly in repressive societies, the absence of institutional mechanisms to support an ethical response leaves the individual health professional isolated and facing extremely difficult decisions, sometimes regarding loyalty to the patient and personal safety. In addition, the absence of institutional mechanisms to hold health professionals accountable for the human rights consequences of their actions or inaction encourages violations of human rights when conflicts arise.”
Below is a summary of PHR’s institutional mechanisms:
- an independent “ombudsman” body that handles health personnel reports of abuse
- independent professional report and peer review for prison health professionals
- whistleblower protection for reporting abuse or refusal to follow abusive practices
- If need be, material support for professionals experiencing reprisals
- Special training and more study of dual loyalty conflicts in settings like prisons
- Pre-employment agreements that ensure these rights and protections
SWASC requested that the National Association of Social Workers’ Board members, staff and its current NCCHC representative ensure the inclusion of PHR’s institutional mechanisms in its own Policy Statements and actions. We also provided illustrations of the harm to both those incarcerated in solitary confinement units and to the social workers as health care providers, due in large part to their dual loyalty dilemma – to no avail.
Thus we now turn to NCCHC’s Board members because we believe that it is imperative for NASW and other membership associations to institute the recommendations above as mandates. We see these not merely as guidelines, but as our ethical commitment to treat all human beings with respect and dignity. We look to NCCHC to rectify this serious omission.
Links to two other Petitions signed by health professionals and concerned people are below:
- A Preventable Harm: Solitary Confinement – https://www.change.org/p/helping-professional-organizations-end-prolonged-solitary-confinement
- Physicians for Human Rights Pledge – https://secure.phr.org/secure/health-professionals-pledge-against-torture-0
We look forward to your response, in hopes that you will incorporate PHR’s recommendations to advance the nationwide effort to abolish solitary confinement through the voices of NCCHC’s health professional associations, individually and collectively.
Moya Atkinson, co-founder & co-convener
Sandra Bernabei, LCSW Co-convener Mary E. Buser, LCSW & author: Lockdown on Rikers